Here’s a list of 5 cultural celebrations happening in Chile every year !

This special post will help you learn more about the top cultural celebrations taking place every year throughout Chile.

The main traditional festivals are associated with natural and productive cycles. Whereas others are usually a mix of indigenous feasts with the Christian tradition imposed since the colonial times. Indeed, it is very surprising the amount of festivals celebrated throughout the country. Either religious or popular, they combine typical dances, music, traditional songs and rituals of diverse origins.

In Northern Chile, a great part of the traditional festivals usually occur in the altiplanic towns. Meanwhile, Central Chile is strongly influenced by the heritage of the Spanish conquerors, but also by the old farming traditions.

Finally, in Southern Chile, the traditional celebrations are highly influenced by the Mapuche culture & cosmovision.

Fiestas Patrias (Independence Day or National Holiday)

The most popular celebrations in Chile happen in September. Commonly called “El Dieciocho” (“the 18th”),  it is a direct reference to the First National Governing Broad occured in 1810. Most of the celebrations occur around the days 18 and 19, and can last up to one full week.

The great majority of the Chileans celebrate this day enjoying barbecues, eating traditional food like empanada and drinking Chicha. They also usually go to the “fondas”. Fondas take place in towns and cities all over Chile and often include various aspects of Chilean folkloric culture, such as traditional music, a traditional dance called the Cueca, and a Chilean rodeo, which takes place in an arena called the ¨Media Luna¨.

It is common to see people dressed as Huasos, with a straw hat and poncho. Traditional foods and drinks include Mote con huesillo, anticuchos (a meat skewer), and terremotos (earthquake), a drink made of pipeño wine, grenadine, and pineapple ice cream.

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La Tirana

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La Tirana is Northern Chile’s most popular and religious celebration. It is also the one that most attracts visitors. Every July 16, the Virgen del Carmen (considered as the Patroness of Chile) is comemorated.

In reality, the celebration has an Andean origin and is highly related with the Pachamama cult, which is the Mother Earth for the Aymará and Quechua ethnic groups. In other words, La Tirana celebration is a clear demonstration of the fusion between the Native American and European cultures.

The event happens in the town of the same name, located 90 kilometers from Iquique. The festivity, usually lasts one week, and is composed of a serie of rituals,  songs and dances with Altiplanic costums. The most famous typical dance is the “Diablada”. The dancers wear colorful and demoniac masks and confront the forces of good lead by the Archangel Miguel. In addition, all along the week, the celebration is always accompanied by music made with tambors and bronze instruments without stopping.

As of result, visitors from whole Chile and even from Peru and Bolivia attend the celebration, a clear unification of the Andean countries.

Virgen de Guadalupe

The Virgen de Guadalupe celebration takes place in the Atacama Desert, most specifically in Ayquina town (80 kilometers from Calama). This is the most important celebration in the Antofagasta Region.

As of today, the Ayquina religious and cultural event occurs to worship La Virgen de Guadalupe. It takes place every year and usually lasts one week. The main celebration days are September 7 and 8. During these days, thousands of worshipers get together and perform a lot of typical pagan-religious dances. For example the Diablada, Tinku or Caporal-type dances.

On September 7, they all gather to wait for the 8th. At midnight, the sky illuminates with spectacular fireworks which welcome the comemmoration of the “Patroness of Ayquina”. On September 8, thousands of pilgrims arrive at Ayquina town. they participate in religious dances all day long to thank La Virgen.

Every pilgrim has their particular way to thank La Virgen de Guadalupe for her miracles. Some of them do it dancing, other through Christian services. And finally there are also those who walk the whole 74 kilometers separating Calama and Ayquina during almost 24 hours.

Devil’s Head at Ayquina, Atacama Desert

The Mapuche We Tripantu Celebration

Lady Rosario sharing the Mapuche cosmovision & culture

For those living in the Southern Hemisphere, June 21st is the shorter day of the year. Moreover, it is the longest night and the beginning of winter. The solstice marks the greater distance between the Earth and the Sun.

For the Mapuche, it means the end of the harvest season, and the beginning of the planting season. From their cyclic vision, the sun is the main driving force of life. As of result, they believe that this special day marks the beginning of winter season. Spring season is young, summer is adult and autumn is old. This is when the tree leaves fall and the animals change their skin.

“We Xipantun”, in Mapundungun (their native language), it means New Year or the release of the new sun. It is an important celebration coinciding with the Inca ceremony called Inti Raimy. During the Mapuche New Year, the members perform a Nguillatún, during which they expressed special thanks to the sun. Considered as source of wisdom and renewal, they intend to pay homage to the sun.

On the night of June 23rd, the rituals held by the different families belonging to the Mapuche community begin. Around the bonfire, they share and eat typical food and the elderly tell their tales.

During the early morning of June 24, all the members of the gathering leave the heat of the bonfire. They do so be in contact with the cold water of the closest rivers. Before the new sun coinciding with the new year comes out, they purify their body and spirit in the river streams.

As part of the ceremony, they pray with music and songs of traditional instruments. Some communities include popular games, execute baptism and rituals to assert their beliefs and strenghten bonds.

If you liked this article and are eager to know more about the Chilean culture, check our travel experiences!

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